FRAL - Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Measuring Divergent Thinking in Youth and the impact of culture – Medityc

Measuring divergent thinking across cultures

The measurement of DT is one of the core issues of assessment of creative potential. Typically, DT tests can be scored in three different ways, resulting in fluency, flexibility or originality scores. Several problems exist with psychometric divergent thinking scores. The role of cultural variables in divergent thinkiing is a debated topic.

Improving the measurement of divergent thinking in a multicultural society

In a context where exchanges between cultures are multiplying, partly because of globalization, it is important to study the impact of multiculturality on creative performance. The objective of the MEDITYC project was twofold. The first objective was to investigate a number of factors related to cultural differences that could have an impact on creative performance as measured by divergent thinking tasks. Divergent thinking is a key skill in creative thinking because it is the ability to generate a large number of original solutions to a given problem. The MEDITYC team hypothesized that several factors such as being bilingual and changing languages during a task of divergent thinking, having multicultural experiences and being open to these experiences, or being confronted with value conflicts in one's daily life could have an impact on performance in divergent thinking tasks. This first objective implied another objective, a methodological one. The MEDITYC project team therefore also worked on the impact of factors such as the typing speed of a participant - when performing the task on a computer - or the cognitive load of judges who evaluate ideas generated in divergent thinking tasks on the evaluation of divergent thinking.

The MEDITYC project consists of a series of empirical studies that combine correlational and experimental approaches. The MEDITYC studies involved participants who were mostly young adults in verbal divergent thinking tasks. A divergent thinking task requires participants to generate a large number of original ideas to solve a problem in everyday life. In the majority of studies, the measurement of divergent thinking was based on direct application of item response theory to model latent performance. In a second step, structural equation and multi-level models were used to model the impact of different cultural and methodological factors on divergent thinking performance. Although the majority of studies are based on a correlational paradigm, the MEDITYC project also includes studies based on an experimental paradigm. This is the case, for example, of the study that investigates the impact of switching languages during a verbal divergent thinking task, but also of the study that investigates the effect of the type of instruction - including «be creative« or not - on performance in divergent thinking tasks.

With regard to the impact of culture on divergent thinking, the project showed that being bilingual and switching languages during a divergent thinking task, having multicultural experiences and being open to these experiences, or being confronted with value conflicts in one's daily life are all multiculturality related factors that have a positive impact on divergent thinking performance. With respect to the measurement of creativity, the project highlighted several methodological factors - such as the typing speed of the person being assessed or the cognitive load of judges who assess ideas generated in divergent thinking tasks - that need to be taken into account to improve the accuracy of the measurement of creativity.

Advanced psychometric models of divergent thinking performance were developed. The influence of exposure to multiple cultures was explored in French and German contexts.

The results have been published in international peer-reviewed journals specializing in differential psychology and psychometrics, such as Learning and Individual Differences and Intelligence. Manuscripts have also been published in journals specializing in creativity - such as the Creativity Research Journal or Thinking Skills and Creativity - or in cultural studies - such as the International Journal of Intercultural Relations. The project also led to a publication in a generalist journal, Frontiers in Psychology.

The focus of the work is fundamental research on theoretically appropriate psychometric models of divergent thinking tests, the development of new objective scoring indices and comparison of these indices with subjective scoring of originality. A secondary focus is the relations of divergent thinking to cultural variables. Divergent thinking (DT) is a crucial component of creative thinking and potential. Thus, the measurement of DT one of the core issues of assessment of creative potential. Typically, DT tests can be scored in three different ways, resulting in fluency, flexibility or originality scores. Fluency is simply the counted number of ideas a person generated during task fulfillment, flexibility is the number of different categories, whereas originality refers to the uniqueness in an inventive sense. For all of these indices for DT test performance, several research questions will be examined. With respect to fluency scores, a psychometric model will be applied that takes into account that fluency scores are naturally count data: the Rasch-Poisson counts model (RPCM). Moreover this model has all the properties that Rasch models typically possess. This model has not yet been applied to fluency scores from DT tests and methodological issues regarding this model will be examined as well. The RPCM will be applicable to flexibility scores as well. Furthermore, with respect to flexibility we will examine if it matters how the category system for assigning the ideas is derived. Typically, such category systems are derived by trained raters and then ideas are assigned according to it. Another possibility is to ask participants to build up their own categories, an approach that has never yet been compared to expert derived categories. In addition, we will examine issues regarding originality. Originality scores suffer from the following methodological problems: 1) confounding of fluency and originality; 2) ambiguity of statistical rarity; and 3) dependence on sample size. None of the proposed objective indices take all of these problems into account. Moreover, problems occurring with subjective originality scoring, such as confounding of the ratings due to, for example, personality variables of the raters, will be examined too, whereby a comparison of different subjective and objective scoring methods will be included. For all three different DT scores (fluency, flexibility and originality) we will examine their relationships with cultural variables, in particular exposure to multiple cultures, which is a dimension that is expected to be positively related to performance in DT tests. To summarize, various assessment issues will be examined with the additional focus on multiculturalism. The complementary skills of the French and German teams are crucial for the success of the project. Planned tasks for each year of the project are described.

Project coordination

Todd Lubart (Laboratoire Adaptation Travail Individu) – todd.lubart@parisdescartes.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

UPD Laboratoire Adaptation Travail Individu
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Institut für Psychologie

Help of the ANR 195,606 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2014 - 36 Months

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